The Character Of The Covenant
"Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” -- 2 Samuel 23:5
It is needful for us to understand the teaching of Holy Scripture regarding the covenant of grace so that we may find the same strength, comfort, and satisfaction in it that David did when he was dying. “These be the last words of David, the sweet psalmist of Israel…Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” Happy is the man who can, from his heart, speak with such confidence of God’s covenant!
The covenant of grace is a compact, an agreement, a contract between the three persons of the Holy Trinity concerning the salvation of God’s elect. The words translated “covenant” in the Old and New Testaments give a broad meaning to the term “covenant.” The Old Testament word “covenant” means, “to create, to choose, and to dispose of.” In the covenant of grace God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, having created a scheme of grace, chose a people, and disposed of all things in sovereign predestination to accomplish the salvation of those chosen.
The New Testament word for “covenant” is sometimes translated “testament” and sometimes “covenant.” It is the word we would use when describing a person’s will. It means “to appoint” and “to dispose.” In the covenant of grace, the triune God appointed the people he would save to the obtaining of eternal salvation, appointed Christ to be our Savior, and disposed all things to secure the accomplishment of his covenant purpose.
The covenant of grace is called by various names in the Word of God. We sometimes call it the “covenant of grace”, because all grace flows to us from this covenant (Eph. 1:3-14). Sometimes we call it the “covenant of redemption”, because it is the covenant by which our redemption was secured; but in the Word of God it is called by four specific names.
1. A Covenant of Peace (Isa. 4:10; Mal. 2:5) -- In this covenant the Lord God laid down the terms of peace and reconciliation; and Christ (the Surety of the Covenant) agreed to them..
2. A Covenant of Life (Mal. 2:5) -- It contains in it the promise of life which God, who cannot lie, made to Christ as the Representative of his people before the world began.
3. A New Covenant (Jer. 31:31) -- It is called “a new covenant” in the sense that it is newly revealed in the gospel, and in the sense that it is constantly new and never grows old.
4. An Everlasting Covenant (Heb. 13:20) -- The covenant of grace is an eternal covenant. It was made in eternity. It deals with eternal matters; and it shall stand throughout eternity. It is a covenant that can never be broken. Not one promise of the covenant shall fall to the ground.
2 Samuel 23:5 shows us a threefold character of the covenant of grace. There are more characteristics to the covenant than these three; but staying with this one text, we are given three aspects of the covenant of grace that gave comfort to a ransomed sinner’s heart as he anticipated meeting God face to face.
The covenant of grace is an everlasting covenant. David said, “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant.” When he speaks of God making a covenant with him, David is talking about God doing so representatively. He made his covenant with Christ our federal head and representative, the Surety of the covenant (Heb. 7:22). When the Lord God promises to make a covenant with repentant sinners, the meaning is, “I will manifest my covenant to you” (Isa. 55:3). An everlasting covenant could only be made with one who is everlasting. That means it was made with Christ in eternity and is manifest to God’s elect in time.
Nothing can be more comforting and delightful than the knowledge of the fact that the covenant of grace and all the blessings of grace are from everlasting to everlasting. This is a covenant that bears the date of eternity upon it, a covenant that shall continue to eternity. It is the everlasting covenant.
It springs from the everlasting love of God for his elect. “God hath loved his people with an everlasting love; not only with a love that shall abide forever; but with a love which was from all eternity” (John Gill). Read Jeremiah 31:3, John 17:23-24, and Psalm 89:2-4.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Mediator of this everlasting covenant of grace. As such, he was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before ever the earth was (Heb. 7:22; 8:6; Pro. 8:11-13). The promise of the covenant, the promise of eternal life to all the elect, was made with Christ the Mediator before the world was made (Tit. 1:2). The salvation secured by the covenant was given to God’s elect in their Surety from eternity (2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 8:29-30). All the blessings of the covenant were freely bestowed upon God’s chosen in Christ, God’s Son, our Covenant Head, before the world began (Eph. 1:3).
As this covenant of grace is from everlasting, so it is to everlasting. It is written, “God hath commanded his covenant forever; Holy and Reverend is his name” (Ps. 111:9). That simply means that God has ordained and established his covenant so that it will continue forever. Nothing shall ever be able to subvert it, or make it null and void. No matter what is done to his elect, no matter what is done by them, God will not break his covenant, nor alter the thing that has gone out of his lips. When we sin, he chastens us; yet his lovingkindness will he not take from us, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail (Ps. 89:30-35). Though we provoke him, yet his lovingkindness shall not depart from us, neither shall the covenant of grace be removed. The covenant of grace is an everlasting covenant. It will never wax old. It will never fail. It will never be replaced (Heb. 8:13; 10:9). It lasts forever!
Not only is it an everlasting covenant; it is a well ordered covenant, “ordered in all things.” That simply means that everything in the covenant is ordered and orderly, being designed by God to fulfill a specific purpose, or purposes. It is “ordered in all things” to advance the glory of the triune God. -- God the Father for his purpose of grace (Eph. 1:3-6) - (v. 6). -- God the Son for his purchase of grace (Eph. 1:7-12) - (v. 12). -- And God the Spirit for his performance of grace (Eph. 1:13-14).
This covenant of grace is “ordered in all things” for the security and salvation of God’s elect. All the elect were trusted to and put in the hands of Christ, our Surety, (John 6:37-40; Eph. 1:13; John 10:29-30), who alone is able to keep us, save us, and present us faultless before the presence of the divine glory. The covenant is ordered and filled with all spiritual blessings, all grace, and all things pertaining to life and godliness. In a word, all things needful for our salvation here and our eternal glory hereafter are ordered by God in the covenant from everlasting.
In the everlasting covenant of grace everything regarding the grace of God was ordered, fixed, and established from eternity, irrevocably and immutably ordered and established by God himself. In the covenant of grace it was eternally settled who would be saved (John 15:16; Eph. 1:4-5; 2 Thess. 2:13). It was also settled and fixed who the Author of eternal salvation must be. -- None other than the Son of God himself (Ps. 89:19; 1 John 4:10). The method of God’s grace, the method by which God would save his people was also settled and fixed from eternity. God arranged the salvation of his people in such a way that he can be both “a just God and a Savior” (Isa. 45:20. He purposed that righteousness be established and redemption accomplished by Christ (Eph. 1:6), that regeneration and faith be granted to chosen, redeemed sinners by the almighty power and effectual grace of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13-14), and that all grace be communicated to the chosen through the preaching of the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14; Rom. 10:17) and the prayer of faith (Ezek. 36:37).
Moreover, all the blessings of grace were provided and settled, predestinated and bestowed upon God’s elect in Christ in this everlasting covenant (Eph. 1:3; Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Tim. 1:9). Before the worlds were made, every chosen sinner was adopted by an eternal adoption, redeemed with an eternal redemption, forgiven by an eternal forgiveness, justified in an eternal justification, sanctified in an eternal sanctification, blessed with an eternal heirship, and glorified in an eternal glorification.
The covenant of grace is an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things; and thirdly, David declares that this everlasting covenant of grace, with all its blessings and promises, is a sure thing, “ordered in all things and sure.” It is sure to Christ our Covenant Surety (Isa. 53:11-12). “He shall (not might, wants to, or hopes to, but – “shall”) see his seed.” “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” (John 17:4-5). It is sure to all for whom the covenant was made. All the promises of the covenant are yea and amen in Christ. All the blessings of the covenant are “the sure mercies of David (Christ). Here are three things that make the covenant a sure thing.
1. It is founded upon the Word of God, who cannot lie.
2. It is ratified by the blood of Christ, who cannot fail.
3. It is sealed by the Spirit of God, whose seal cannot be broken.
“This covenant of grace all blessing secures;
Believers rejoice! For all things are yours!
And God from his purpose shall never remove,
But love thee, and bless thee, and rest in his love!”